I have a new obsession. My tummy. To be more specific, my tummy’s troubles. I thought eating a (mostly) plant-based diet meant being healthy, but accepted that I had to deal with a few less than sexy, unpleasant side-effects. (you know what I mean!) For years, I struggled to understand why I felt less than stellar eating what I thought was a healthy diet. I was constantly bloated, gassy and, well, I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty; it was uncomfortable and could last for days. After speaking about my GI problems with my sister-in-law, who is a registered dietician in Canada (and clearly not phased by gross details), it seemed that I could actually have a ‘real’ problem with food. More to the point, a sensitivity or inability to adsorb certain kinds of food. She told me about FODMAPS.
According to Dr. Sue Shepherd, an expert in GI and dietary research in Australia, “FODMAPs are found in the foods we eat. FODMAPs is an acronym (abbreviation) referring toFermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols*. These are complex names for a collection of molecules found in food, that can be poorly absorbed by some people. When the molecules are poorly absorbed in the small intestine of the digestive tract, these molecules then continue along their journey along the digestive tract, arriving at the large intestine, where they act as a food source to the bacteria that live there normally. The bacteria then digest/ferment these FODMAPs and can cause symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include abdominal bloating and distension, excess wind (flatulence), abdominal pain, nausea, changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both), and other gastro-intestinal symptoms.”
I though I knew enough about my body and what it could digest well. But reading Dr. Shepherd’s work (and that of others) on FODMAPS has been extremely revealing and very rewarding. I’ve begun exploring which foods cause my tummy troubles and which ones are safe for me to eat. Although it has taken some time to research and coordinate (and you must absolutely speak/meet with a medical professional about any tummy troubles), I’m working through an elimination diet and slowly reintroducing one FODMAP (category) at a time in order to track my body’s responses.
The foods I’ve eliminated to date, mainly fructans and galactans (such as apples, onions, and certain types of beans) and polyps (such as mushrooms and green peppers) have left my tummy feeling very happy (finally). The combination of these FODMAPS was, I believe, a significant source of many tummy troubles. No more mushroom barley soup for me! However, I struggle to reduce or eliminate lactose (milk and unripen cheeses like ricotta), fructose (such as mangos, artichokes, and asparagus) and wheat-based products.
Here are a few resources I have found to be very helpful along the way :
- Patsy Catsos’ IBS Free at Last site and her book
- Elise’s FODMAP Diet and her sister site Hungry Hungry Hippie
- Kate Scarlata’s Blog and her professional (registered dietician) site
- Recipes from the site Low FODMAP Diet
When ever possible, I’ll note how to make recipes FODMAP friendly, to the best of my ability. However, everyone’s body reacts differently, so please rely on your experiences, what you can eat, and what you can’t!
Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional; this is not medical advice. I am sharing with others my food – and tummy – adventures. If you have questions about FODMAPS and/or GI problems, please speak with a medical professional. Also, I have not been, nor do I seek to be, compensated for referring to these resources; I’m just sharing information.